Netanyahu sending top officials Dermer and Hanegbi to Washington to discuss Rafah operation

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

File: From left to right: Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi at the State Department in Washington on March 7, 2023. (Antony Blinken/Twitter)
File: From left to right: Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Council chairman Tzachi Hanegbi at the State Department in Washington on March 7, 2023. (Antony Blinken/Twitter)

The Prime Minister’s Office announces that Benjamin Netanyahu will be sending two of his most trusted aides, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, to Washington to discuss the continuation of the war on Hamas with the Biden Administration.

A representative from COGAT, the IDF unit responsible for coordinating aid in the Gaza Strip, will also be making the trip.

“The Prime Minister stressed that he is determined to operate in Rafah in order to eliminate for good the remaining Hamas battalions, while offering humanitarian solutions to the civilian population,” the statement says.

The move comes amid mounting US opposition to an Israeli ground offensive in Rafah, where more than one million displaced Palestinians are sheltering, and after US President Joe Biden urged Netanyahu in a phone conversation yesterday to send a team to Washington to discuss alternatives to a full-scale offensive.

It’s unclear whether Dermer, Hanegbi and a COGAT representative are who Biden had in mind for Israel to send. Biden asked Netanyahu to send a “senior inter-agency team composed of military, intelligence and humanitarian officials,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said yesterday.

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre says the meeting will likely take place early next week, but that it could take place as soon as the end of this week.

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